This Mr. Robot review contains spoilers.
Mr. Robot Season 4 Episode 7
Halfway through Mr. Robot’s final season, it’s less clear than ever what sort of endgame we’re moving toward. “Proxy Authentication Required” is a riveting hour, to be sure, with great performances from all the actors involved. But it also forces us to ask – is season 4 more than a series of great individual pieces strung together from week to week? What is this season building toward?
That question – as has been the case for the past few episodes – will have to wait until next week. But at least the distraction in the meantime is pretty great.
Here, creator Sam Esmail puts together an installment structured as a play in five acts, which focuses exclusively on Vera’s kidnapping and subsequent emotional manipulation of Elliot. Sorry if you were wondering about what happened to Darlene and Dom, folks! It’ll probably be Rami Malek’s Emmy reel, and if he wins, he’ll deserve it for a performance that runs the gamut from rage to desperation to utter and total despair.
“Proxy Authentication Required” is essentially a four-hander between Malek, Christian Slater, Elliot Villar and Gloria Reuben, staged and set-up as though it were a Broadway production. The actors trade off with one another through out, as the scenes are largely set up as extended conversations between various pairs. But each gets distinct moments to shine, as well as satisfying emotional confrontations with one another.
In a season that hasn’t given Slater much to do so far, he’s also a standout here, as Mr. Robot faces down Vera and pleads with Elliot not to look too closely at the past.
“I’m not someone you push around with a gun. I am the gun,” he snarls at Vera.
That statement, of course, becomes even more meaningful later on, when we realize that Mr. Robot is truly created in the image of the father Elliot never had, a protective, ferocious defender of not just his son, but apparently the world at large (ands up if you too really missed Slater’s impassioned take downs of the intricacies of capitalism too), This season has done some particularly interesting things with the interplay between Elliot and his alter ego, and the two personalities slide between one another fairly seamlessly here, depending on who Elliot’s talking to.
The return of Fernando Vera has felt a bit out of place in this season that’s largely been about consequences, atonement and the threat of the Dark Army. This episode doesn’t entirely fix that problem, but it at least gives Vera’s return a purpose, as he serves as the catalyst for what may be Elliot’s most consequential mental breakthrough to date. His seemingly endless monologuing about shamans and power is maybe (definitely) a bit much, but Villar sells Vera’s meth-fueled conviction with gusto. All that said, it’s definitely not a tragedy when he’s killed at episode’s end – Justice for Shayla! – and one gets the distinct feeling that, in stabbing him, Krista has likely saved Elliot from a seriously cult-like fate.
Admittedly, though, Elliot’s insistence that he needs Krista to be better rings more than a little false given how infrequently the two have interacted in recent seasons and how invasive and disrespectful of her boundaries he’s been toward her generally. Krista’s fear of him in season 4’s third episode certainly seemed real enough, after all.
Despite Krista’s semi-regular presence in Elliot’s life, Mr. Robot hasn’t exactly spent a lot of time developing anything like a real relationship between the two of them, and largely used their therapy sessions as a way to give viewers a better look into his psyche. Perhaps the fact that the two of them are now tied together by Vera’s murder will bring them closer together in a way that isn’t necessarily bounded by a professional relationship. But how exactly this will all play into the series’ endgame remains maddeningly unclear.
Lest we forget, Elliot theoretically starts season 4 with eight days to live, and a mission to bring down Whiterose and her shadowy Deus Group. Forward momentum on what is ostensibly the season’s main plot happens in fits and starts, derailed by everything from a Christmas Eve trek through the forest, a drunk Santa, a death in the family and a surprise date. It’s now been Christmas Day for at least a couple episodes, but we don’t actually feel any closer to the all-important emergency Deus Group meeting meant to take place that evening that will see Philip Price replaced as E-Corp CEO. Nor do we have any further clarity on Whiterose’s ultimate plan. This doesn’t’ mean that “Proxy Authentication Required” isn’t a worthwhile hour – far from it. It’s emotional, well-acted and gives us a greater understanding of what has made Elliot who he is.
But this episode also raises as many questions as it answers. Yes, we finally know the horrific origins of Mr. Robot, as well as the depth of Elliot’s personal childhood trauma. But how – if at all – does Darlene fit into this story? Does Elliot’s mysterious third personality actually exist and, if so, what created it? Will we see Mr. Robot again? And, if so, how often? Given everything Elliot’s just gone through, on top of being an accessory to murder, it’s likely that he’ll need the comfort of his take-charge alter ego more than ever right now. But there’s something about the mournful way Mr. Robot intones “I can’t protect you anymore” that feels like a goodbye. Or at least a substantial shift in the role this character will play in the story going forward.
Here’s hoping that’s not true, particularly given that Mr. Robot has been the audience’s only real window into Elliot this season thus far. But this is the first season in which it feels as though Elliot’s two halves are something like a cohesive whole, and we haven’t gotten to see nearly enough of that in this series thus far. And with just six episodes left to go, it feels like that might be true of a lot of things. Will this episode be a turning point in that regard? We’ll have to wait and see.